Ernesto Laclau and the logic of ‘the political’

Philosophy and Social Criticism 32 (1):111-134 (2006)
Abstract
Ernesto Laclau's theory of antagonism and political identity has been widely celebrated as one of the most promising attempts to apply the lessons of ‘poststructuralism’ to political theory. This essay argues, however, that this initial promise is not fulfilled. Laclau's attempt to define and analyse ‘the political’ as such operates at such an abstract level that Laclau is forced to make sweeping claims about the nature of politics and identity that he simply cannot support; and his analysis of the decision that he claims defines politics is an unrealistic one that celebrates violence, and could have the wide appeal it has had only in a political culture that understood freedom as the absence of all constraint, rather than the achievement of autonomy. Key Words: antagonism • autonomy • decision • freedom • hegemony • identity • Laclau • ‘the political’ • rule-following • Wittgenstein.
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